Friday, March 27, 2015

28 march 2015

This has been quite a slow week for us other than last weekend.  Since it was quite slow, I am going to spend a little  more time today on the message for the week which follows.  I will also post some pictures on our Naga College presentations from last week.  

You will remember from our last week's blog that  we spoke at the Naga College Foundation last Saturday.  Between the photo shoot after speaking and lunch with the sponsoring class, we were out most of the day.

Member and Prof in white blouse.  Red blouse Dean of College

Undergraduate teachers

The Speakers

A few of those attending who wanted pictures with us

Sunday found us in Pili Ward which is part of the Naga Stake and then hurrying back to get ready to go to Pamplona  with the Family History couple we have been working with.  We all needed to eat lunch before leaving so we had invited the Gamil's to eat with us after the meetings and before leaving for Pamplona.  Then we found that President and Sister Reeder were here for church that day so Sister Hoopes invited them also.  We had a quick lunch at our apartment and then headed out on our way which we were then informed was to Sipocot rather than Pamplona.  Pamplona is a half hour away and Sipocot an hour away.  So, it made for a very long day and by the time we got back, we were very tired from the whole weekend.  Thus, an easy week this week was very good for us.  Sister Hoopes has started doing a lot of piano teaching with a couple of regular students here in Naga but we are going to Sipocot tomorrow morning to teach a large group.  We cannot go there weekly so they will have to learn the basics and then do a lot on their own.  Brother Gamil will be going with us as we are going on to Daet (Stake) to do another Family History training in the afternoon.

Thursday was Zone Conference in the Naga Zone.
Reeders enjoying cookies from Sis Hoopes

 It was at the Stake Center which is the other
chapel in Naga so we road over there with the Gardners.  It was a very nice day.  We had some teaching from the Assistants on some new advertising that the Church will be doing for Easter and beyond.  Then we were able to watch the movie "Meet the Mormons".  We had seen it before we left home but were very pleased to see it again.  The best part of the day was with President Reeder teaching.  He had assigned all the missionaries to read the talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson from the last conference entitled, "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves".  I especially love the quote that is used in the Ensign.  It is: "It is God's will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually."  President discussed all of this extensively focusing on the spiritual part of the message.  And that was highly appropriate for missionaries.  The other word is "temporal"and that is what I will focus on today.  

Elder Christofferson asks, "Who bears responsibility for what happens in our lives?"  Following are quotes from the talk:  "Because of the moral agency which has been given to us, it is God's will that we should act for ourselves.  It is his plan that we have the principle decision making role in our lives.  He will not live our lives for us nor control us in any way.  From a temporal perspective God will not make us something we do not choose to become.  We can choose to become the kind of person that we will and with God's help, we can be even as He is.  In matters both temporal and spiritual, the opportunity to assume personal responsibility is a God-given gift without which we cannot realize our full potential....Personal accountability becomes both a right and a duty that we much constantly defend.  We must defend accountability against persons and programs that would make us dependent.  And we must defend it against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities, and Christlike Character.  It is God's will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin...I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency.  My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with."

I have been contemplating this message now for two days and find this to be one of the most profoundly deep and enlightening talks I have read in some time.  We are going to be teaching the Life Skills class for missionaries returning home starting in two weeks and I am going to use the above information to begin our discussion.  The message is simply this:  We determine who and what we are going to be and once we make the determination, then God will step in and help us if we ask him to.

I suggest that everyone print this talk and read it again and again.  I would love to hear others perspective upon it.
Lunch or dinner at Chili Peppers.  Pork Chop w/rice

Piano Lesson at stake center

The rest of this week is busy again starting first thing in the morning.  At the request of President and Sister Reeder, we are doing more to assist them with the sick and afflicted.  I am talking about missionaries.  It is really the responsiblity of Sister Reeder and she will always be the decision maker but she has been asking us to sometimes pickup and/or go see a sick missionary; or this past week go and see a sick sister and pickup a sample for a test that needed to be delivered to the hospital.  That is filling up our time and will probably increase.

Otherwise, we are doing great and feeling good.  Take care until next week.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

21 March 2015

Today is the culmination of a very different week. We haven't been all that busy but we have been involved in some very different things for us. I will detail the different things we did as you read through the blog.

I mentioned a week or two ago that we had been approached by a member of the Stake about speaking at a Workshop for Naga College Foundation.  The sister is a member and a Professor at the college and the group that wanted us to speak is her group of 8 Graduate students.  All of them are currently working as teachers but are striving to improve themselves.  She also teaches undergraduates which were also there in abundance.  The Workshop was opened to anyone else who wanted to come and I understand that there were MBA's in attendance as well as a host of others.

Program for the workshop which we spoke at today
All of our spare time this week has been spent preparing for our presentations to the Naga College Foundation where we spoke this morning.  I am very sorry to say that we did not take our camera with us and thus were able to only get a few shots with an IPad.  Others took hundreds of pictures so we will get a few and post them at a later time.

There were a lot of people there and even though we spoke in English, they seemed to understand quite well and were very attentive.
We think the presentations were very well received as we have already been asked to come back again.

This picture was taken with an IPad and is quite grainy but the best we have.  The Auditorium is supposed to hold 250 but I think there were probably 100 there.  This is taken from the 3rd row back and there were many in front of us.

We were there at 8:00 am and the program was to start at 8:30 but as Filipino time goes, we didn't get started until 9:30.  After we finished about 12:30, they asked us if they could take pictures.  We were there for another 30 plus minutes with group after group coming up and wanting pictures with us.

This is our last picture of the Workshop with Elder Watson presenting.  The board behind him has a printed poster that they had made for the occasion.  Another thing of interest is the two women in the front row.  The one on the left is the College President and the other is the Dean of the College.  Both spoke on the program and afterwards were very grateful for our coming to speak.  Both also asked us if we would come back again and speak to a group of the teachers.

The last thing was lunch down the road at a nice restaurant with the Professor and her 8 graduate students. We just had a very nice time.

The week started out much like other weeks. Last Saturday, I went to a Family History Training for the Goa Stake. We have been helping a couple who has been called by the Area Presidency to train the Stake and Districts in Family History. Kathlene stayed in Naga to attend a Relief Society Program in our Stake with Sister Reeder.   On Sunday, we attended the Pamplona Branch. A good sized Branch about a half hour north of Naga. We did not know of any great issues in this Branch but have spoken with Missionaries who really wanted us to come and visit and had set up the time with the Branch President. The Branch President is like so many we have met here. In his mid 30's and has been in the position for only a year. In fact, he had been called while living in another area and moved to this area to be the Branch President. He and all the members were so gracious to us. Several members there, including the Branch President, asked if we were or could be assigned to their Branch and we had to tell them no - that we were only visiting for the day. I was able to spend some special time with this Branch President and learned that he was a returned missionary with a small business in another town. He has a college degree but has chosen the business because it is the only thing that will allow him to ultimately get ahead. He told me that working as an employee in the Philippines, a person earns just enough to get by and never anything more. He said there would never be a way to build his own house if he worked as an employee. I asked about his family and he told me that he has a wife and 2 children. The oldest, a boy, is a special needs child and is 8. I met this boy before the meetings started and could tell that he has some severe impairments but I do not know why. The couple watching over him told me he was the President's son. There is also a girl who is 6. He had spent 3 years working in the Middle East as so many do but, "I am away from my family and now I am back and will never go again". As he talked to me about his family, he told me of their struggles and how hard they work.  He and his wife get up at 4:00 and feed their animals - they have 100 chickens, 50 ducks, turkeys, goats and a pig. Then they head to their business which is an electronics repair and sales shop. They return home about 7:00 pm and do this 6 days a week. I just sat there staring at this nice looking young man and he looked me in the eye and said, "We are a happy family". Wow! How many people can say that? This is how the Filipino people are. Even with so very little, they always seem happy. Here was one who declared to me that he was happy and working hard to do better for his family. I think that is worth some thought on our part. We who have so much, how happy are we really? I really love being here and meeting these people!

Tuesday found us in a van with President and Sister Reeder; the Gardners and the Watsons headed to
one of the old volcano mountains which is nearby. It was a "Fun Day" that Sister Gardner has been planning for quite some time at the request of Sister Reeder. We hiked to a waterfall and then we drove to a very nice resort area where we had lunch. A very enjoyable day.

A very nice pool behind us with only one individual swimming when we got there.

The waterfall with the pool

Maybe Sadie will like these animals at the resort

On Thursday, we went to a District meeting in Pili where we will attend Sacrament meeting on Sunday. Pili is a ward in the Naga Stake about 30 minutes away. We have been told that they have severe problems with member's records and we have not been able to see any information on the ward so we will see Sunday what we can find out.

Bishop of Naga 3rd Ward at Ward Council.  

Even with all of the things going on Sister Hoopes approached our Bishop in the Naga 3rd Ward about helping organize a choir for Easter Sunday. I know most of you reading this will say, "Wait a minute. That is General Conference". But I must remind you that we will be in Sacrament meeting on Sunday when the Saturday night Preisthood session is in progress. We will watch conference sessions here the week following. So, Bishop asked if we could attend a Ward Council which we did and, of course, everyone wants a choir. Now again, we are involved in choir practices for Easter Sunday.

Have a great week!

Elders for dinner on PDay - Monday

Naga is in the background but too hazy to see

Friday, March 13, 2015

14 March 2015

Magandan umaga!

Finally!!!  We got our temporary drivers licenses on Tuesday. We have had some issues and it took a little work.  We didn't have time to get them in Manila when we first arrived.  Then we went the first week to the Naga office and they wouldn't give them to us because our passports said we were only good for 90 days in the Philippines.  We ended up sending our passports back to Manila to get the VISA's extended and when we got the Passports back, we went in Tuesday and got the licenses.  Now we have to wait a couple of months to get the actual card but we are good.  The issue for us was that we were legal to drive for 90 days with our Utah license along with our passport.  But we did not have our passports for 3 weeks while they went back to Manila.  We did have a copy and we had no accidents so we have clearly been blessed in getting this done.
                                                                                   We attended a District meeting on Thursday with
San Fernando District with 2 sisters missing
the Milaor District which included missionaries from the San Fernando Branch. We had taught these missionaries just a week ago in the Naga Zone Training but as we will be attending the San Fernando Branch a week from this Sunday, we decided to go back and meet with this smaller group and talk more in depth about what we will be doing when we attend the Sunday meetings.  San Fernando is a Branch that is part of the Naga Stake so we don't have any information on how they are doing with their records but the missionaries think there are big issues.  The building where we met for the meeting is not far away - about 15 minutes a little north of Naga.  There are 8 missionaries in this district, 2 sets of sisters and 2 sets of Elders.  One of the sisters has been ill and so that companionship did not attend the district meeting.

Milaor Ward church
The reason I mention this at all is that we had a very nice day with these missionaries.  Their district training for the day was from Preach My Gospel on "The Power of the Spirit in Conversion".  After they completed their teaching, they had a practice session which is always part of the training process.  The two sisters were assigned to teach the Hoopes couple and I could see the panic in their faces. These are two Philippina Sisters and have always seemed quite shy.  I am sure it is because they don't speak English very well. We told them they could teach us in Tagalog if they wanted but they went ahead and taught us in English even though they struggled a lot. Their assignment was to try to teach so that we, the investigators, could feel the spirit.  With really no time to prepare anything the senior companion started by asking us about our family and how they were all doing.  Then she said that they had a message they wanted to share about families.  She then proceeded to talk about the importance of families.  They were well trained in that the Senior companion would teach a concept and then the junior companion would testify that she knew that concept was true. The Senior then asked me to read Nephi 1:1 and the first thought in my head is "what does that have to do with families" but I did remember Nephi saying he was "born of goodly parents".  This sister asked me what I thought about the statement from Nephi.  I talked about how Nephi thought about his parents; that they were goodly (which could mean good in spirit as also worldly goods) and that he was taught in all the learning of his father. He definitely would have been taught spiritually as well as temporally.  She then asked us, "What do you think that your children would say of you"?  That was a question that hit me hard. What have we taught and/or not taught our children and what would our children say of us?  Would they think that we were "goodly" parents as Nephi spoke of his?  Needless to say, I was very touched and have thought of this often since the teaching.  It is really something that these young Sisters could touch me that much in just a few minutes; in a language they didn't speak very well; with no time to prepare and not even knowing us. The spirit was there and it spoke to me that day of the importance of families and our obligation as parents to teach, nurture and train as we raise our children.

For not starting with a busy schedule this week has turned out to be very busy.  President and Sister Reeder were at the Mission office early on Thursday on their way to a zone conference and sister Reeder asked if we could help a missionary who had wisdom teeth pulled the day before and was having some trouble.  The missionaries were to call us if they needed help.  We didn't hear from them until 4:30 in the afternoon.  We then drove out to the Stake House where we met them and found  that they had called the dentist and he was gone home for the day so they really couldn't get in to see him. But Sister Hoopes took over as she is so capable of doing - got some ice; some gauze to bite on to put pressure on and some do-terra oil to stop the bleeding.  By the time we got them back to their apartment, he was already doing better and was much better the next day.  Our reports are that he is now doing quite well - actually eating some and talking.  He was pretty miserable the first we saw him.
Mostly the Laurel YW class.  Teacher in middle is 14.

We went to church in a little branch on Sunday in a city named Cotnogan.  It is at the extreme southern end of the mission.  We met the branch president a couple of weeks ago at the Presidents home while we were there.  He had brought his daughter in to be set apart as a missionary.  She was leaving the next day for Manila and the MTC.  She is going to Rochester, NewYork. We got to talk with her father and he invited us to come out and join them for church.  He said that Cotnogan is in the mountains.  I really wondered how it could be in the mountains as there are only a few volcano "mountains" but we have heard it is beautiful there.  The Reeders were going Sunday and invited us so we went with them.  It was really a beautiful little place.  Of course, they needed a couple of speakers for Sacrament meeting and so because we hadn't been there, we were elected.  I had looked at the statistics and reports on this branch and I could find nothing that appeared amiss.  Someone has done an excellent job in keeping the records current. Apparently, it is the son of the branch President who works away for a few months and then comes back for a short time.  I think he is keeping the records current.  I guess it doesn't matter who is doing it as long as it gets done.  The above picture is of YW from the mutual class on Sunday.  The YW in the middle (tallest) is 14 and taught the class.

Branch President on the left with his brother in the middle.  On the right is President Flores who is the First Councilor in the Mission Presidency. He went with us on Sunday as the Mission Presidency interviewed and sustained a new councilor in this Presidency.  President Reeder also set apart a Sister Missionary who had come home for health reasons and was leaving to go back to her mission.  She needed to be set apart again.  

From Cotnogan looking to the west.  We are on a little rise which they called mountains.

Sister Hoopes went out on Monday to visit with some kids in the parking lot.  The boy sitting against the wall in the blue shirt left on Wednesday for a mission to New Zealand.  He will be going to the MTC in New Zealand.  This was a little going away party for him from some of his friends.

In the Naga 3rd Ward building.  Chapel in background.
Sister Hoopes just recently started piano lessons with this little girl who is the daughter of our Bishop.  She is only 7 and was told by someone that she was too young. But, in 1 week she can identify and play 3 octaves of written music from the notes on the scale almost perfectly - 99%. She is very quick to learn. 

These people LOVE music and are very adept. Most have no formal training but many self teach the piano and can do quite well.  

Bishop said the big problem with this is that he will have to buy a piano.  She has two little sisters.

The Elder on the right is from Idaho and had a terrible headache last week and eventually ended up in Manilla to be evaluated.  The headache was gone before he went to Manila but still, the doctor there wanted to have him examined.  He flew back to Naga on Friday and we picked him up at the airport and took him to his area in Goa where there is a stake.  We have never been there so we were glad to go and take him.  The YM on the left is working with the Elders on a temporary mission.  He is from Iriga and we met his father on Thursday at the building site of the new mission presidents home.

These are the District leaders from the San Fernando District and we took them home on Thursday.  This is where they meet on Sunday for church (branch).   You might ask, "what is that stuff on the blue tarp in front of the building.  Below is another picture.  It is rice drying and it is right out in the road.  We had to drive over it to get past the church.  We will be coming back to church here in a couple of weeks.

Enough for this week.  We go back to Goa today for another Quarterly Family History training as we did last week.  We will leave at 1:00 and not return until evening.  Tomorrow is a visit to another branch in Pamplona.

Friday, March 6, 2015

7 March 2015

A new friend during choir song
Last weekend was Stake Conference in the Naga Stake and we participated by singing in the Stake Choir.  We had attended some of the practices which had been held for 3 weeks previous to the conference but we missed a few as well.  The choir practices were not much to my liking.  One of the practices scheduled for 4 on Sunday afternoon did not start until 5 and then it was going to go on, as it seemed to me, forever.  So we left before they got done.  Still it was a different and good experience.  I doubt that I have mentioned before that the hymns here are all in English.  They use our regular hymn books and sing in English so it was a lot easier for us being somewhat familiar with the language.  In Germany, the hymns were all translated into German.  There were several young men who sang base along with me and they were quite good.  I was impressed as they enjoyed singing and weren't afraid to sing and they enjoyed practicing their parts.

An area 70 was assigned to be at the conference.  His name is Elder Cisneros and he is Philippino and a great man and he spoke almost completely in English.  I asked some of the members if he spoke in English for us Senior couples or if he would have done it that way anyway.  They responded that he probably would spoken that way anyway.  In the bigger wards in the city, mostly English is spoken and in the branches it is mostly in Tagalog. Elder Cisneros gave an excellent talk on Saturday evening on Fasting.  I would like to share some of his thoughts which were helpful to me.

Gardners and Watsons with us at Yellow Cab Pizza

                                                                               "Fasting without purpose is just dieting"

                                                                               11 Ways to make fasting a spiritual experience
                                                                              1.  Meditate on purpose                                         2.  Begin with kneeling prayer.  
     Tell God the purpose
3.  Go without food or drink for 24 hours
4.  When feeling hungry,  pray again to
      remind ourselves of the purpose
5.  Give a generous Fast Offering
6.  Bear testimony in Fast Meeting
7.  Study scriptures as you fast
                                                                                   8.  Deny yourself personal gratification
                                                                                   9.  End with kneeling prayer
                                                                                   10. Commit to be a better person
                                                                                   11. Fasting is a spiritual work to
                                                                                         overcome the natural man
After Stake Conference on Sunday, we met a Sister who told us that she was the Stake Public Relations Director (her name is Melvi) and wondered if I would be willing to speak at a school regarding communication management in the work place.  I agreed that I could probably do something.  It turns out that she is a Professor and that the school is the University of Naga.  The class is graduate students in teaching and also some who have MBA's and are already out in the work place.  She asked if we knew anyone else who is International and I suggested Elder Watson who is from Canada and was a School Principle.  He has agreed as well and has done a lot of motivational training in his career.  This week, we received an email from Melvi asking if Sister Hoopes could speak on "America's communication values taught to children: It's impact to the nations progress". Wow.  We have really become inundated with things to do.  We will be speaking in the auditorium of the University which holds 250 people.  I don't expect anywhere near that many but who knows.  We will find out in due time.

Needless to say, this week has been busy with preparations for these presentations which will be coming up on the 21st of March.

We have heard that the church has a CES building in another part of Naga.  We found it on Tuesday and were able to visit the director and get a tour. This is a very nice "stand alone" building in downtown Naga and it is intended as an institute building and also for activities. Notice the parking lot is painted for basketball.

Two of these kids are the Stake Presidents kids who just happened to be there when we were visiting.

This picture is of the reception area and the Director who is the second councilor in the Naga Mission Presidency.

This building and schedule function much like a Center for Young Adults in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  They have regular institute classes as well as activities, internet.  It is a very nice gathering place for these LDS kids to associate with one another.  We were very impressed.

We did some training with the missionaries from the Naga Zone on Friday.  It is always fun to be around the missionaries.  We ate lunch with them as well.  They love the cookies that Sister Hoopes brings to each meeting.  They were so excited and these Elders acted like they were the guardians of the cookies.  The one holding them is from Samoa.  Notice the cookies in the hands of the sisters (above).

The lunch was prepared by members and was pork with mushrooms, stir fry vegetables and rice.  Always rice......

It has been a busy week for Sister Hoopes.  She started giving piano lessons to the daughter of our Bishop in the Naga 3rd Ward.  The girl is 7 years old and got her first lesson on Monday and then again yesterday.  She is doing very well.

Sister Hoopes also tried her hand at cooking German again.  There is a German butcher shop here which we visit now and then.  This is one of my favorites called Rouladen which is thin strips of beef rolled with pickles, carrots and mustard inside.  Then browned in a pan and cooked in a sauce which is used for gravy.  Along with that is the Spaetzle which is a homemade noodle.  The pizza pan in her had is used to push the dough through the holes into boiling water beneath.  It was really good.  I think this last picture will go on to Facebook so our German friends can see.

We are headed to Iriga today with a Philippino couple who are assigned to work in Area Family History and they asked us to be with them.  They have presentations in every district and stake on every Saturday and 1 Sunday in March.  We are going with them each time.  We are going to Cotnogan, a small branch in the Iriga district with President and Sister Reeder tomorrow.

Sister Hoopes:
We had two catastrophe's this week!  In our fitness craze,  Elder Hoopes tore a calf  muscle very badly and could hardly get up the stairs to the apartment.  He thought he would be down for several weeks with it.  But, through our therapies and personal prayers, after 1 1/2 days of rest he is  completely healed.   Miracles really do happen!

The second catastrophe is that the Kitchen Aid mixer I have been using to make dozens of cookies that I take out to the district meetings each week died!  Right in the middle of cookies for the Naga Zone.  I was able to finish the cookies but my attempts at first aid on the mixer failed!  We are now praying for another miracle that it will heal itself.....oh I mean, I hope it gets back from the repair shop before the end of our mission!!!  I long for my little German Bosch!!!

See you next week.